7-3-15 - On the Job Training

Those who would carry forward the ministry of Jesus’ apostles as ordained leaders today must often go through a great deal of discernment and training and formation. In the Episcopal church, discernment can take 3-5 years, with parish committees, diocesan committees, bishops, psychologists, often more than once. Training means a three-year seminary education, learning all about church history, theology, practice of ministry and how to interpret the Scriptures. Formation includes field education, chaplaincy, spiritual direction, mentorships, retreats…

And a person can emerge from all of that and still not feel equipped to cast out demons or cure people of illness! By contrast, the original apostles of Jesus did all that on their first foray, learning as they went:
So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

This is fairly astonishing, when you think that these men had no formal instruction, and had until recently been living normal lives, with families, engaged in livelihoods like fishing and tax collecting. But it doesn’t require training to allow the Spirit of God to work through you – it requires learning how to get out of God’s way. We can see, following this band of Christ-followers through the pages of the New Testament, that it took them a lot longer to get that down. But here, at the outset, they are already competent at demonstrating the healing and authority over evil that are prime markers of God’s realm.

Do you feel equipped to be an apostle of Christ in your surroundings? Do we even know what that means for us? It’s not complicated; I figure “apostolic” just means doing whatever Jesus’ apostles did. And they did this: proclaimed God’s reign, invited people to open themselves to God’s love (repentance), and demonstrated that love through curing the sick and casting out evil wherever they encountered it. They did this not on their own, but by God’s power working through them as Jesus gave them authority. That’s all.

We too have been given this gift of Spirit and this authority over evil. We don’t need any more training to be apostles than the original ones did. We too can learn on the job.

And, as strongly as I believe this, I find it hard to get out there. It’s so counter-cultural for us, to go out in public, or even to people we know, offering prayer and healing. We have a little team from church all set to do that, and we keep finding excuses not to go. Yet whenever we do, we find such a positive reception and such blessing.

I am truly grateful for all the formal education and training I received, and I hope my communities benefit from it. I also know that all I really need is the power of the Holy Spirit alive and working through me, and the courage to let her flow. You too!

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